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STORIES AND FAIRY TALES
Valery A Ifeyevsky
Translated from the Russian by
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English translation © Raduga Publishers 1983
Printed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
THE LIVE BEAD
Seven little beads lived in Galya's matchbox. And what a grand life they
led: every day they were taken for a walk. Even now Galya was tipping
up the box, letting all the little beads roll out onto the table: two red,
two blue and one yellows They would go walking in pairs: the red in
front, followed by the blue and then the yellow.
Galya had found the last bead on the porch. She had been digging a
stick into a crack one day, prising out bits of rind, grit and
stones — nothing interesting, when suddenly she hit upon the little
bead. Nice and round, smooth and weighty, obvious at once it was
precious. Only with no hole. Instead of the hole it had little spots and
patterns alongside just like a goat’s horns. It did not really matter
about the hole. Galya liked the new bead better than anything
One time Galya took her little beads to the seaside. The sea was in a
blue dish. It had three ships upon it— nutshells. Galya put her beads in
the ships and off they sailed. The pair of red beads went in the first
boat, the blue pair in the second, and the yellow one in the third. All at
once a storm blew up, turning the ships upside down and sinking the
beads. Just as Galya was about to rescue them her mother called her;
and off she went for a walk. ^ _
The moment she got back she began to retrieve her little beads from
the sea. She brought up the red ones from the seabed— they were al-
right, alive and well; she fetched up the blue ones also safe and
sound. But when she pulled out the yellow bead, she looked at it and
even took fright: what on earth had happened to it? It was all wrinkle,
just like Mother’s fingers after the washing.
Galya put the sickly bead on her palm and took it to Mother.
Perhaps Mother would set it right.
But Mother said,
‘Never mind. Let it lie in water till morning. It will right
Next morning Galya fetched the yellow head out of the water and
looked at it: it was fine now. It was certainly better: it had grown,
puffed out and put on weight, yet. no longer the hard little bead of
before; in fact, it did not resemble a bead at all. And on the spot where
it had had the goat’s horn pattern there was something like a little
trunk concealed beneath the skin.
Galya rushed to show her Mother.
‘Just look, Mother,’ she exclaimed. ‘See what the bead is now. How
important it looks. But I don’t want to play with it any more. Why is it
so soft? The red and blue beads are better.’
‘I like it though, 1 said Mother. ‘Leave it with me.’
Mother poured some water into a saucer, placed a rag on the bottom
and the yellow bead upon the wet rag.
And there it was lying when Mother called Galya to see what had
happened next to her bead.
Galya took one look and cried,
‘It has cut a tooth like my baby brother. See how sharp and white
True enough, the bead’s little trunk had pierced the skin and
climbed upwards like a tiny tooth.
‘Why has the bead got a tooth?’ asked Galya. ‘Has it come to
‘But it was alive all the time,’ said Mother.
‘Even when it was living in the matchbox?’ asked Galya.
‘Even then,’ said Mother. ‘You think it is a little bead, but it’s really a
tiny living pea.’
‘No, I don’t want it like that— a live pea,’ Galya said. ‘Better a live
The live bead’s tooth grew into a long root. And at the top rose
a little looped stem. It was dear that the live bead longed for some
Mother and Galya went to plant it. It was still cold as they went out
into the yard; only recently the snow had melted and fresh grass was
growing only by the wall. So there, alongside the house wall, Galya dug
a hole while Mother dropped in the live bead and covered it up with
earth. Then they stuck in a stick.
‘Is the stick for the live bead?’ asked Galya.
‘It certainly is,’ said Mother.
That made Galya laugh.
‘When the live bead misses me,’ she said, ‘it can peep out of
the ground and climb up the stick to see where I am. Right,
That day Galya popped out a few times to see the stick. But the live
bead was not peeping through the ground.
It grew warm. Flowers bloomed and butterflies fluttered by. Mother
was busy in the kitchen garden. Galya too had a lot to do and forgot all
about the live bead.
But one day she was running by the stick when she suddenly saw a
little creeper. To her surprise the creeper was clinging to the stick. It
was holding on by its tiny leaves! The leaves had little green threads
which wound around the stick and tied the whole plant to it. Now
there’s magic for you!
Off ran Galya to tell Mother.
‘But that’s a pea plant — your live bead,’ said Mother. ‘I’m surprised
you didn’t guess.’
Galya brightened up at once, saying,
‘But why does it cling to the stick?’
‘To stand more strongly,’ explained Mother. ‘Just like your baby
brother: he cannot stand up by himself, so he holds onto the back of
the bed and pulls himself up.’
The red and blue beads continued to lie in Galya’s matchbox. They
stayed the same as before. Yet whenever she ran to see the live bead
she would see something new.
Yesterday nothing happened, but today there was something white
amidst the tiny leaves. Galya thought it was little moths. But it was tiny
flowers. The live bead had blossomed. Where had it learned to do that?
Two flowers on a single leg. Galya snapped them off, giving one to
Mother and the other to her baby brother.
‘Don’t you touch,’ said Mother, ‘when they come out again.’
‘Why’s that?’ asked Galya.
‘The live bead needs them,’ said Mother. ‘You’ll see what will become
And Galya did see: each flower would bloom for a bit and then its
white petals would fade and drop. But out of the centre of the flower a
pod would grow.
The pod would be transparent in the sunshine and you could see
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dark little balls inside. Galya dearly wished to know what they we re * bnt
she took pity on the live bead and never touched its pods.
Those pods just went on growing. They became large and thick.
When they turned yellow Mother said,
‘Right, Galya, your pea plant is ripe.’
And she let Galya pick all the pods. And do you know what she
found inside the pods. J Little yellow beads: nice and round, smooth and
weighty. Just as if they were from a shop, and precious too.
So Galya specially took them all for a walk. The little beads went
along in pairs, so that ever such a long chain strung out: from one end
of the table to the other. Yellow live beads walked in front, with a red
pair and a blue pair bringing up the rear.
Galya said to them,
‘Do you remember when a long time ago the yellow bead walked
behind you? Now look ahead — these are all its little children. See how
many it has. Too many for me to count, and certainly too many for my
baby brother. Only Mother can count them now.
THE HAPPINESS BULB
This autumn Dad brought me a big bulb from the south, saying,
‘There’s happiness in the middle of this bulb, my little girl.
I was surprised: how could there be happiness in that ugly grey
Mother planted my bulb in a pot and took it down into the cellar.
Several days went by and I had forgotten all about Dad’s present.
Then all at once Mother handed me the pot and there was a slender
yellow shoot. ,
‘Now you can grow 7 a flower out of it, she said.
Mother placed the pot on the bathroom windowsill, covering the little
shoot with a paper hood and drawing the curtains to keep the room
cool. The flower needed that for a while so that it could grow in the
dark and cool.
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From then on, as soon as I woke up, I would run barefoot into the
bathroom just in my nighty. I would lift the hood and see if my flower
had grown during the night, see if it had grown and filled out.
And it did: it grew and grew. And one day it sprouted leaves, and a
thick stem peeped out of the middle, full of buds. Thereupon we
moved the flower to a sunny window.
Just before the New Year it burst into flower. And what a lot of
blossoms it had: as blue as blue could be, and Oh so sweet-smelling.
And all of them were facing in different directions, as if they wanted to
see everything about the room. Hotv beautiful each little blossom was.
Dad said my flower was a hyacinth.
On New Year’s Eve, when all our visitors had arrived, Dad turned
out the light and said,
‘Can I have your attention for a minute?’
Just then I quietly entered the room with Hyas in my hands.
Straightaway bulbs were switched on and our visitors saw the wonderful
hyacinth and clapped their hands. At that I placed Hyas in the centre
of the table for everyone to admire. And they were all very happy.
So that was the happiness hidden in that ugly grey bulb.
My brother Misha boasts that he can forecast the weather. But this
summer he was wrong, so I don’t believe him any more. True, it all
went well to start with: he forecast rain for seven days, and so it was
to the dot. And on the eighth day he announced it would be
I was so pleased: I’d been itching to get to the meadow to draw the
harebells, but the rain had stopped me. I brightened up now.
Befoie starting my drawing I decided to go and have a good look at
All the harebells had their heads to one side, and one of them was
looking straight at me. So I began to examine its podgy, fluffy tongue.
Yet just then a fly alighted on the tongue. A tiny little midge about half
the size of a mosquito. It sat down, then fluttered up to the blue ceiling
and crawled inside the flow T er.
I peered inside. At the bottom inside the harebell lay a clump of dry
jumble d-up threads, probably dried stamens. The midge wandered
about among them for a while and then sat motionless upon the dump.
It sat on and on like a mother hen on her eggs. Yet it was only a
midge. ■ /
I was quite put out. Ages ago I had thought of studying insects, but
there was nothing to study: and now my midgey-widgey was not batting
an eyelid. \ ou couldn t tell from his eyes whether he was asleep
So I decided to stir him up. Yet just as I went to move my hand, a
raindrop fell upon it. It would! Rain! And how T it came down!
I got soaked to the skin as I was running home. How I came down
on that weather forecaster!
And all he said was,
Serves you right. \ ou should be ashamed of being so unobservant:
didn’t you see the rain cloud?’
‘I was busy watching a silly old midgey-widgey.’
Then Misha explained,
‘It felt rain coming on straightaway and hid in the clump. Yet you
come rushing through the rain, get soaking wet and mad with me.
There’s your silly midge for you. It is a darn sight cleverer
Do you know, children, that even a common or garden old pumpkin
can sometimes surprise people.
Our Mother is very fond of pumpkins and every May, while it is still
cold, cultivates pumpkin seedlings on the windowsill.
However, that spring my younger brother caught measles and
Mother forgot ail about pumpkins. Gran, of course, forgot to remind
her. She always forgets everything.
So June arrived and it was already hot outside when Mother
suddenly recalled her pumpkins and said,
‘Oh, dear, Oh dear. In past years I’ve already had seedlings by now,
but all I’ve got is seeds lying inside the mother-pumpkin.’
At that she reached down a big yellow pumpkin from on top of the
stove; it had been lying there since last year. The pumpkin had started
to go bad, and one side had caved in. Mother was in the process of
cutting out the bad parts, repeating to herself.
‘I used to have seedlings by late May, now here I am taking out the
seeds only now.
Mother threw a mouldy piece into the bucket with her knife and
then saw something astonishing.
‘Come here quickly, children. Just look at that,’ she cried.
Naturally, we all came running to take a look. And what a surprise!
Pumpkinlings were growing inside the pumpkin. And what beauties.
They had lovely white, thick, hairy stems and two yellow leaves upon
the stems — one above the other. And the pumpkinlings were growing-
inside the pumpkin, as in a marsh: there was water in the base of the
Mother pulled out a baby pumpkin; it had a whole beardful of little
roots, all matted in yellow pumpkin juice.
We were quite amazed with the pumpkinlings, though all Gran said
w’as it w r as normal.
Mother gingerly brought the pumpkinlings out of the pumpkin and
planted them in cardboard pots so that they could gain some strength
in the room.
‘So I have the seedlings after all,’ Mother exclaimed. ‘The mother-
pumpkin has saved me: she raised her little children all by herself.’
I am very fond of little chicks. And last year my favourite hen, Blackie,
suddenly began to cluck loudly. Naturally, I kept on at my Mother to
sit her on eggs. But Mother would have none of it.
‘Better not ask me, Vic,’ she said. ‘Chicks are too much fuss, and I’ve
got my hands full as it is, what with your Dad going off to the
But I told her,
‘Let me look after them myself, Mummy, you just put her on.’
I kept on at Mother and gave her no rest, begging her to put Blackie
on the eggs.
In the end she lost patience with me and said,
‘You’re a litde pest, Victoria!’
True enough: I can be a pest if I want. If I set my mind to it I
always get my way. That morning Mother went off to the office and I
made for the hen-coop.
We’ve a very interesting hen-coop. You certainly wouldn’t find it
straight off. Right behind our cottage is a big hill, just like a great
ogress in a billowing green skirt. And in the very hem of that skirt is a
door with a little glass window. That’s our hen-coop. Dad dug it right
out of the hill. He made the ceiling of wood, packed the walls with
straw and, to hold it up, made a wooden trellis along all the walls. It
turned out very well.
The hens lay their eggs just below the ceiling right on the earth, in
So now I made one more hole in the far corner. Then I filled it with
thirteen eggs; I picked out all of Blackie’s — hers were darkish as if
When I was lifting Blackie up to the nest she tried to struggle out of
my arms. Then she settled down, spread herself out and started to roll
the eggs under her with her beak. I heaped some straw in front of the
nest. Just let anyone now try to find it, they would certainly have a
Mother came home from work and we had dinner. Then she
collected food for the hens and was about to take it to them when I
snatched the bowl from her, saying,
‘I’ll go and feed the hens myself. Mummy. I’ll lock them up for the
night now and let them out in the morning. I can do all that
Mother gave a laugh.
‘We’ll see how long your patience lasts,’ she said.
But my patience lasted a whole week. It might have lasted longer if
my friends had not come to go mushrooming in the woods. I was in
such a flummox I clean forgot about the hens.
We got back late from the woods, round about seven. As I was
running home I suddenly caught sight of Mother approaching with
Blackie under one arm. It turned out that Mother was going to give
Blackie a dousing to put a stop to her squawking. Blackie had got used
to me taking her off the nest every day so she had come to Mother’s
notice at once. She’d let me down good and proper! I had to own up to
Mother about everything. Well, as you can imagine, I got it in the
neck. - |
Yet, for some reason, Mother decided not to douse Blackie after all.
She returned home with the eggs from Blackie’s nest and began to
examine them in the light. If the inside was darkish, that meant the egg
had a chick inside, if it was light, it hadn’t.
So all the eggs were laid out: the first with a chick, the second,
third... Even Mother grew quite excited. She’s fond of chicks herself.
Only the last egg seemed not to have a chick in it. But that was white,
not at all one of Blackie’s.
‘But there’re fourteen of them here,’ Mother said. ‘This one must be
And then I remembered: one time I had taken Blackie down for a
walk and then found Whitie sitting in her nest. But I didn't dream
W 7 hitie w r ouid lay an egg.
As Mother set Whitie’s egg aside, I picked it up.
‘Do you think a chick will hatch out of it too?’ I asked.
‘Yes, probably,’ Mother replied. ‘But it would hatch out a few days
after the others, and a hen won’t stay put up on a single egg. Just
throw the egg away, there’s a good girl Vic.’
But I didn’t. I was keen to see what would happen. And quietly I
slipped the egg back under Blackie.
But w T hat a long time I had to wait for Blackie’s chicks! I made a note
on the calendar w r hen they were due, and every morning I worked out
low many days w'ere left.
And then, finally, twenty one days were up, the date I had marked
down as the Big Day. I got up very very early. It was still quite gloomy
in the hen-coop, but even in the doorway I could hear Blackie softly
clucking away in her corner.
I slid my hand under her and felt a fluffy little body. A chick!
Snatching it up I ran to wake Mother. I thought we would have to
break open the other eggs to let out the chicks.
But Mother said we must never disturb either chicks or hens: they
could manage by themselves.
Mother and I counted the empty shells. When the thirteenth hatched
out, the last, Mother put Blackie and the chicks into a basket and
carried them into the barn.
Then I took the secret Whitie’s egg from the nest and wondered
what to do with it. When Mother had said throw it out, it had
simply been an egg. But now there was a little chick inside the
Maybe some other hen would keep it warm? It was
then I remembered that Aunt Katya had sat a hen on eggs
Auntie Katya was baking pies and not at all pleased to see me.
And when she knew why I had come she waved her hands
‘Good gracious me, not another egg!’ she said. ‘My poor hen is only
small, you know.’
But I kept on and on and finally had my way.
I must admit I did get on Aunt Katya’s nerves from then on. I
couldn’t count all the times I ran to ask her whether the little chick was
But finally I was on my way to her when Aunt Katya herself came
out to meet me. Handing me a little box she said,
‘Right, now leave me in peace, I’m fed up with your little
That was the name she gave my chick because she had hatched out
in someone else’s nest. What a lovely little chick my little Cuckoo was.
Yellow all over and ever so fluffy, she even had fluffy legs. Her eyes
were big and dark. Sitting in the palm of my hand she stared at me so
calmly, as if we’d known each another for ages.
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I ran to Mother with her and told her everything. She was a bit cross
about me being so naughty, but then she said.
‘I wonder whether Blackie will take to your Little Cuckoo?’
Blackie was scratching the ground with her daws, while the chicks
scuttled around her. I held out Little Cuckoo in my hand and at once
she puffed herself up, chirruped something, lifted her tiny wings and
rushed to meet, the other chicks. Hopping from my hand, she landed
on the ground and toppled over.
At that Blackie stretched out her neck and said the same to her as to
her own babies,
Then I pushed Cuckoo towards her and straightaway she edged
forward and nestled into her feathers.
Next morning Mother and I were feeding the chicks. She was seeing to
the black ones, I the fluffy yellow one.
‘See how big and strong she is now/ I said proudly to Mother. ‘See
how sturdy she is on her legs. She’ll run better than yours today.
But it was not so. The little black chicks chirped happily, ran
amongst the grass as if it was a jungle, pecked at this and that and even
tried scratching the ground with their tiny claws.
But Little Cuckoo did not leave Blackie’s side. She would take a few
steps then run back to Mother, dive under her and bury herself in her
feathers. Blackie would settle down to warm her, but only for the
briefest moment, then she would be on her feet again. She was keen to
walk on with the other babies.
Meanwhile Little Cuckoo would be sprawling upon the ground and
shakily standing up, ever so sleepy. She did not seem to know whether
she was still in the egg or in some unknown realm. I felt so sorry for
her, yet consoled myself with the thought that she would soon grow T
‘After all, in four days or so she will be as tough as those pellets/ I
For the first few days I never forgot to give Little Cuckoo a little
extra. But probably that was not enough, because Blackie spent the
whole day rummaging about the ground looking for something tasty
for her chicks. She would seize a worm in her beak and summon her
chicks with a ‘ko-key-key’ .
And they came running from all directions. The first one to get
there would have the worm. There was no queuing. Little Cuckoo
would run at the call too, but she was always last. She’d look up as if to
‘Mother, what did you call me for? Do tell me why.’
The little black chicks grew up very fast, while our yellow Little
Cuckoo seemed to lag more and more behind. The blacks soon had
feathers sprouting from their tiny wings, and real feathers, like bird’s
feathers. Blackie began to lead her chicks far afield, even up
One time Mother sent me to feed the chicks, and I called them to
‘Tsip, tsip, tsip.’
No Blackie and no chicks. All of a sudden, little birds came flying
down the hill, followed by a big black bird. It was Blackie. How
funny it was to see: the chicks came flying along just like
But, alas, Little Cuckoo was not with them. Quickly I scattered the
oats upon the ground and climbed up the hill, looking for Little
Cuckoo. But I could not find her anywhere. By now I was sure a kite
had got her and I began to descend the hill, when suddenly I heard
someone piping in the grass. It was Little Cuckoo! She was lying there,
her little wings beating the grass, her claws all tangled up in a clump of
w r eeds.
It was a long time since I had picked her up and I was surprised to
find her so skinny and scraggy. The tiny feathers on her wings were
only just poking out of their little piping. As I bore her along she was
cheeping and cheeping without cease.
I knew now that Little Cuckoo would never catch up her little sistei s
and brothers. And I no longer felt any thrill when Mother came out
and we had to feed Little Cuckoo. No matter how much you gave
her she remained just as scrawny as ever. It even hurt to look
Mother got quite cross, but more and more often I ran off at feeding
time. I’d say I was going for flowers or berries.
‘You’ve got quite beyond me, Victoria,’ Mother would say. ‘I hope
your Father returns soon.’
Blackie’s family lived in our barn until the chicks had learned to sit
on the perch on their own. They would show us themselves when they
were ready. We had a stack of poles in the yard and the chicks would
space themselves out upon them, with Blackie sitting below on the
ground, Little Cuckoo under her wing. Little Cuckoo now had all her
feathers, yet not once did she try to fly up even to the lowest rung. She
was already used to failing in her attempts.
Mother had decided to transfer Blackie to the hen-coop, but because of
Little Cuckoo she said,
Tor the time being I shall have to sit her on the perch myself every
And so she did. All went well until one day she gave me the job.
That was when I found I needed all my patience. And I was always
short of that, which is why things went badly.
Blackie and all her black children were sitting on the perch, while
Little Cuckoo was squatting on the ground by the straw wall.
I sat her next to her little brother. But the brother pecked her. So I
set her down at the other end, next to a little sister. She did not touch
her, just inclined her head towards her. But Little Cuckoo took fright,
pulled her head into her shoulders and flew back to her old
‘Are you coming. Victoria?’ Mother was calling me. ‘We have to get
ready for the pictures. 5
‘Just coming,’ I shouted back.
I wanted to catch Little Cuckoo, but she kept dodging and scuttled
into a far corner. At that I lost my temper.
‘Right, stay where you like,’ I shouted. ‘I haven’t time to fuss with
Mother and I returned late from the pictures. It was dark and I went
ahead carrying a torch. I was in a happy mood, singing a tune I had
heard in the film.
All at once Mother said,
‘Hold on, Vic, did you hear that? Isn’t that our hens?’
It was then I caught a squawking from afar. Mother and I set off
quickly but I was naturally the first to reach the hen-coop. What on
earth was going on? I had never heard hens kick up such a row in my
life before. I was so frightened I could hardly unlock the door, unable
to fit the key in place.
As Mother came up she unlocked the door. There were white
feathers everywhere and on the ground lay Little Cuckoo on her side,
her legs outstretched.
‘Give me the torch, Vic,’ said Mother bending over Little
‘She’s still alive,’ she cried. ‘Bring a basket.’
When I had brought the basket, Mother transferred Little Cuckoo to
it; she was all blood-stained.
‘There’s a hole over there in the corner, straight from the hill,’
Mother said. ‘I blocked it up with a stone.’
Indoors Mother put iodine on Little Cuckoo’s wounds, and sewed up
the biggest of them. Then she tipped some wine and warm milk down
her gullet. All the while, Little Cuckoo lay on the table motionless, her
‘Mummy, will she come to life again?’ I murmured. ‘Do you think
‘I don’t know,’ Mother replied. ‘But I shall do all I can to save
Mother sat on the bed, her arms dangling between her knees. Her
face was sad and weary. I suddenly felt a wave of pity for her. Coming
up to her I pressed close and said,
‘Mummy, I shan’t be naughty again. You’ll see. I’ll do everything
myself from now on. You’ll see.’
And that time I kept my word. Mother did not have to bother about
Little Cuckoo any more; I did not forget her. For the first few days I
gave her milk to drink, then she began to lift her head by heiself and
peck at cottage cheese and oats out of my hand. The only trouble was
she continued to lie awkwardly at the bottom of the basket and we were
afraid her legs had been hurt.
However, one day we w’oke up to find Little Cuckoo had climbed out
and was sitting on the basket edge. How overjoyed Mother and I were.
Next day Little Cuckoo started to wander across the floor. And it was
not long before she had completely recovered. Only her tail remained
damaged, cocked to one side. That was no great loss: after all,
Little Cuckoo was a hen, not a cock; and hens don’t need fine
Even so, no one has a better hen than me. The moment she used to
see me she would come running and fly on to my shoulder. That hen
was worth her weight in gold.
And the wild animal that had almost eaten her had been caught the
very next day in a hen-coop trap. It was the first time I had seen such a
terrible monster: he had a brown back, yellow jowls and black stomach.
Mother gave him to the school pets corner, and there they said it was a
5* w 1' r
LITTLE MOUSE LOSES HIS WAY
The fieldmouse’s Mother gave him a dandelion stalk wheel, with this
‘Here, roll your wheel but stay dose to home.’
‘Pip-piti-pip,’ squeaked the little mouse. I shall 10II my wheel and
have a good game.’
And he rolled the wheel down the hillside path. He rolled and rolled
and had such fun that he did not notice he was lost. Last year’s lime
nuts lay scattered on the ground and, up above, through the leafy
lacework, bloomed white and yellow thickets of flowers. This certainly
was a strange place. The little mouse came to a halt. Then, to keep his
spirits up, he lay his wheel upon the ground and sat light in the middle
of it. He sat there thinking to himself,
‘Mother told me to stay close to home. But where’s close to home
Thereupon he noticed the grass quivering yonder and a frog came
‘Pip-piti-pip,’ piped the little mouse. ‘Tell me, please, froggie, where
is close to home and where is my Mother?’
To his good fortune, the frog knew and answered,
‘Keep straight on, dead ahead under those flowers. And you will
come to a triton. He has only just crawled out from under a stone and
is lying there catching his breath before diving into a pond. Turn left
past the triton and run along the path straight on. There you’ll come
upon a white butterfly. She is sitting on a blade of grass waiting for
someone. From the white butterfly turn left again and give your
Mother a shout; she will hear you.
‘Thank you,’ said the little mouse.
He picked up his wheel and rolled it along in between the stems and
under the thickets of white and yellow anemones. But it was not long
before the wheel got stuck: first it bumped into stem, then another,
stuck fast and finally tumbled over. All the while, the little mouse
would not let go, he pushed and tugged until, finally, he drove it onto
Then he remembered all about the triton. He had to meet the triton
before going on. But he missed him simply because the triton had
dived into the pond while the little mouse was driving his wheel along.
So the little mouse did not know where to turn left.
Once more he drove his wheel along, following his nose. This time
he came to a patch of tall grass; and trouble struck again: the wheel got
stuck so fast that it would not move backward or forward.
It took him ages to free it and only then did the little
mouse remember the white butterfly. After all, he had not met her
In the meantime, the white butterfly had been sitting on the blade of
grass until it got tired and flew away. So the little mouse never did find
out where to turn left.
Luckily for him, the little mouse ran into a bee flying to some
red currant blossoms.
‘Pip-piti-pip,’ cried the little mouse. ‘Tell me, please, bee, where is
close to home and where is my Mother?’
It so happened that the bee knew, so it now replied,
‘Run down the hill and there you will see something yellow in a
hollow. You will find little tables covered in lace tablecloths with yellow
rbTh- iw° n th r Th r e flOWerS are Called g° lden saxifrage. Climb up
hill from the saxifrage and there you will see flowers like sunspots
and, alongside, fluffy white balls on lanky legs. These are flowers
known as coltsfoot; turn right from them and straightaway call your
mother and she will hear you.*
‘Thank you/ said the little mouse.
He picked up his wheel and it ran downhill all by itself. And so fast
that the little mouse could hardly keep up. In no time at all he found
ximself in the hollow. And there he saw the little tables covered in
’ellow lace tablecloths with yellow bowls upon them
■Pip-piti-pip,’ cried the little mouse. ‘Here is the golden saxifrage It
" on t be long before I’m home now. The flowers can’t run away, the
flowers can’t fly off, the flowers can’t let me down, Pip- pi ti- pip.’
He began to make his way up the hill, but the wheel again ran into
trouble. It kept rolling back downhill and did not want to climb up.
No matter how hard the little mouse pushed and tugged, it was no use.
It kept toppling over, getting stuck, and in the end he had to abandon
At last the little mouse reached the top of the hill, but he could not
see the yellow flowers. There were no fluffy white balls either.
While the little mouse had been carting his wheel along, the flowers
had closed up, with evening advancing; flowers and the fluffy balls of
the coltsfoot always close up for the night.
So the little mouse did not find out where he had to turn right.
Where was he to run to now? It was already getting dark and he could
see no one around. The little mouse sat down under a leaf and wept.
And he wepl so loudly that his mother heard him and came running.
How overjoyed he was to see her. And she even more: she had nearly
given up hope of finding her little son alive. And side by side they ran
THE GREAT WONDER
A rainworm was born under a rotten stump upon the earth, and lived
the whole year in darkness, digging holes. He would only peep out at
twilight so as to collect and drag fallen leaves into his underground
home. They were his favourite food.
But one day, after a heavy summer show'er, the rainw'orm had to
push his way up through flooded holes.
The earth was wet and soft. The sun shone through the clouds and
gently caressed, rather than burnt, the rainworm’s delicate skin. The
grass and trees w r ere shedding the last drops of rain. It was so
enjoyable that the rainworm felt he had crawled out just to look at the
light of day. So he announced,
‘I have come to see how you are all getting on out here.’
‘Good, have a good look,’ the grass and trees answered him in
welcome. They knew and liked him; after all he lived in firm
friendship with their roots. ‘Crawl around a bit and you will see many
‘It’s scarey crawling about on my own,’ said the rainworm. ‘If only I
had a companion.’
Hardly had he uttered those words than he saw a caterpillar climbing
off a half-eaten shrub. The caterpillar was smooth and long,
just a mate for the worm, only not so pink; it was striped and
‘Since all around is green, it is hardly surprising that worms are
dressed in green,’ thought the rainworm. ‘But why is that green worm
crawling in such an unworm-like way? Ah, I see now. It has little legs
on its stomach. That’s probably one of those wonders about which the
grass and trees spoke.’
And the rainworm asked loudly,
‘A worm crawling on legs, is that a wonder?’
‘No, that isn’t a wonder,’ the grass and 9 trees answered him.
When the caterpillar had crawled closer, the rainworm said
‘Let’s go for a walk together. Let’s see what wonders there are in the
‘Come on then,’ agreed the caterpillar. ‘I was just sitting on that
shrub chewing its leaves. And now I suddenly feel like crawling and
crawling, I don’t care where.’
So off they crawled. The rainworm crawled along pushing the front
half of his body forward, stopping and bringing up the back part. And
the caterpillar crawled along in its own way, using its legs.
On the way they met some ants and snails. They were all old friends
of the rainworm. Some of the snails even had their home under the
same rotten stump where he had been born.
But then on a low pink flower the rainworm saw an altogether
unfamiliar and amazing insect, with tiny blue leaves growing on its
back. The insect poked its head over the very heart of the flower and
seemed to be lost in thought. Suddenly the tiny leaves on its back
opened up, closed together, opened up again and the insect abandoned
the flower and rose into the air.
The rainworm could not stifle his amazement. How could it hang in
the air like that and not fall?
The caterpillar explained calmly,
‘That is a butterfly; it has wings and it flies/
‘Flies? 5 repeated the rainworm. ‘No one ever flies among us
And he enquired loudly,
‘Is a flying animal a wonder?’
‘Yes, it is a little wonder, 5 the grass and trees answered him.
‘Well, let it be a wonder, 5 said the caterpillar. ‘But I would fly too if
only I had wings.’
The caterpillar and the rainworm journeyed all day. They saw r a lot of
wonderful things. They saw little frogs skilfully hopping high in the
air; they saw flowers opening and closing; they saw the glowworm
shining through the gloom.
Yet the grass and trees assured the rainworm that these were still
only little wonders. In fact, the friends were not to see any big wonder
They crawled towards the cosy light of the glowworm and settled for
the night under the broad leaf of a plantain.
The glowworm w r as sitting on the ceiling with its green little lamp
lighting up the whole room under the plantain leaf.
The rainworm suddenly saw the caterpillar digging a hole and
carefully making a bed for itself.
‘What a delicate one you are,’ said the rainw T orm. ‘We 5 re only
spending one night here, you know. 5
‘I don’t know what’s up with me,’ answered the caterpillar. ‘I always
used to sleep without a bed, simply under a leaf. But now 7 I just fancied
making myself a good bed to sleep in for ages and ages. 5
‘Well then, I shan’t let you sleep for ages,’ said the rainworm. ‘I’ll
wake you up.’
But the worm did not have to rouse the caterpillar. Next morning he
could not find it. His friend had vanished. And in the hole where it
had been and had made its bed, the rainworm saw a longish brownish
thing. At one end it was rounded, and at the other sharpcornered. The
round end had little knobs and grooves on, like eyes, paws and little
wings, while the sharp end was all covered in rings. Now here was an
amazing thing! The rainworm accidentally pushed it and, all of a
sudden, it began to move.
‘It’s alive,’ exclaimed the rainworm in astonishment.
‘Don’t you recognise it?’ asked someone from the roof.
It was the glowworm. His light went out in the morning and the
rainworm had not even noticed him.
‘Don’t you recognise it? Why, that’s your friend. It slipped off
its green skin in the night and turned into what you see now
The rainworm was very surprised and asked loudly,
‘Is not an animal turning into a chrysalis a big wonder?’
‘Not such a big wonder,’ answered the grass and trees. ‘But if you
want to see a big wonder, why don’t you call upon your friend
All right, said the rainworm. Thereupon he bade farewell to the
glowworm, dug a little hole and disappeared underground.
He used to visit his sleeping friend right up to winter. The plantain
leaves grew brown and lay snugly on the ground. The grasses had all
died away. The trees grew sad, bidding farewell to their dying leaves.
Meanwhile the chrysalis remained unmoving in its hollow 4 * * 7 . The weather
then turned cold, and the rainworm, hiding from the frosts,
disappeared deeper into the earth. There " he made himself
a little chamber, rolled up into a ball and went to sleep till
In springtime he recalled the journey, the wonders he had seen and his
chrysalis friend. And he decided to pay it a visit.
But now he could not even recognise the familiar place: a carpet of
last year’s leaves lay upon the ground. How was he to find the little
hollow under them? The rainworm was very dow 7 n hearted, but there
was nothing for it but stretch out on the ground to rest.
Suddenly he felt someone moving beside him. He unrolled and saw
that fiom under the ground, parting the leaves, some sort of insect was
crawling out. At first there appeared a head with big eyes, then a
shaggy chest and long legs. After that the entire insect climbed out into
the open and crawled along a stem.
‘It is like a butterfly / thought the rainworm. ‘Only its wings aren’t
quite right: they are crumpled like autumn leaves in my narrow
At that the strange butterfly, clinging to the stem, began to wave its
Gradually they straightened out and grew strong. And soon after
it became a very real butterfly with patterned wings like little
‘Where did you come from?’ the rainworm asked it.
The butterfly turned at his voice and immediately hopped down
from the stem to the ground;
‘Hello there, rainworm,’ it said. ‘Do you remember when we crawled
along how I told you I felt like flying?’
‘It surely can’t be you?’ said the rainworm, unable to believe his own
‘Yes, it’s me, your friend,’ said the butterfly. ‘You saw me as a
caterpillar, but you also saw me as a chrysalis. Do you remember how I
then had a hard brown skin? I’ve now torn it off and climbed out to
freedom. And now I m going to fly. Just you watch me fly. Afterwards
I’ll fly to see you at your place.’
You used to be a worm and now you’ve got wings!’ said the
rainworm. ‘I surely don’t have to ask— this is the big wonder.’
‘Yes, this is the big wonder,’ came back the voice of the grass and the
So now the rainworm was completely happy: his friend had come
back and at long last he had seen a really big wonder.
YELLOW, WHITE AND LILAC
It was such a fine spring day that even the dung-beetle felt like
opening his dusty wings and flying to see if there was anything in the
world better than his own wide sunlit road. And, seeing a frisky young
grasshopper, he asked where it lived.
‘In the merry yellow meadow,’ said the grasshopper. ‘We have
dandelions and buttercups flowering there. How the buttercup’s petals
shine: you can see another grasshopper’s face in them. Just like when
you look into water.’
‘I shall fly over and see for myself,’ said the dung-beetle.
And he began to get ready. But, as was his custom, he dawdled and
dawdled for ages and ages until, when he did fly off, he could not find
the yellow meadow. And the next time he came upon the grasshopper he
complained to her.
‘Ah,’ said the grasshopper, ‘But, you see, the meadow is now white
instead of yellow. We now have michaelmas daisies and yarrow
flowering there. When you walk through them it’s just like a cloud
hovering over you. And what a lovely smell!’
I’ll fly over and smell them for myself,’ said the dung-beetle.
And he began to make preparations. But, as was his custom, he
dawdled and dawdled for ages and ages until, when he did fly off, he
could not find the white meadow. And when he next met the
grasshopper he began to complain.
‘Ah,’ said the grasshopper,' the meadow isn’t white any more, it’s
lilac. We have harebells and wild geraniums and sweet peas flowering
there now. You ought to see the funny creepers on the sweet peas.
They cling on to the blades of grass. It’s such fun to have a swing on
‘You swing as much as you like,’ said the dung-beetle. ‘I’m not flying
off anywhere any more. You’ll be having black flowers there tomorrow.
No, I prefer my own patch of ground. Dung’s always dung, and dust’s
always dust. And grey is always easier on the eye.’
The yarrow was quite small still : it had a slender little stalk and tiny
narrow leaves in three tiers. It still had a long way to grow and it did
not yet know what sort of blossoms it w T ould have.
4 Will you alight on me when I blossom?’ it asked a gaudy gadfly. I
shall have great big flowers with yellow balls.
4 Don’t tell fibs/ said the gaudy gadfly. 1 know what sort of blossoms
you’ll have: clusters of tiny white flowers each smaller than my head.
‘No, not at all. Much bigger than that,’ exclaimed the yarrow bursting
into tears. . .
But when it saw a lovely yvhite butterfly, it again set to dreaming.
‘Do you know T what blossoms I shall haver it said. Great big ones
with a blue hood like a harebell. Will you come and see me then?
‘Don’t tell fibs,’ said the white butterfly, ‘I know what sort of flowers
you’ll have: clusters of little white ones smaller than my eyes.’
‘No, not at all. Much bigger than that,’ exclaimed the yarrow and
burst into tears.
It wept until the rain came down. And after the rain it made the
acquaintance of a raindrop and told it all about its troubles.
‘I want to have bigger beautiful blossoms,’ it said. ‘I want all the
world to see them plainly; everyone to come and visit me. I certainly
don’t want tiny flowers smaller than a gadfly’s head and smaller than a
‘Calm yourself,’ said the raindrop. ‘Do you see that round cloud up
there? I used to live in that very same cloud. And do you know, it is
entirely made up of drops that are so teeny-weeny they are invisible.
But just look at the cloud. Everyone can see it. Maybe the same will
happen to you: your flowers will be small, but plentiful.’
‘Yes, lots and lots of them,’ cried the yarrow brightening up.
And it gave no more thought to its flowers.
And when it became quite grown up and blossomed, it recalled the
litde raindrop. It really did have lots and lots of teeny-weeny blossoms
and they sat so thickly on their stalks that all together they resembled a
little cloud. And from all corners of the meadow the midges and bugs
came flying to that fluffy white cloud.
‘What a silly little fool I used to be,’ said the yarrow. ‘Now why did I
want those big blossoms?’
All through the summer a hare was feeding a lame squirrel; a wicked
boy had broken one of her legs. When the squirrel was better she said
goodbye to the hare, thanking him for his kindness.
‘Don’t you put anything by for the winter,’ she said. ‘You fed me all
summer, I’ll look after you in winter.
But from that day on the hare never saw the squirrel. The last patch
of grass vanished beneath the snow, leaving the little hare hungiy, all
that remained were bare twigs and bark. Wlien times were bad he often
had nothing to eat at all; then he would think of the squirrel and cheer
up at once.
‘If only I could find her,’ he would think, ‘what a good time we d
And then one day the hare at last came upon the squirrel. She was
sitting on a dry branch by her hollow.
‘Hello there,’ cried the hare. ‘What luck to find you. It so happens
I’ve had nothing to eat all day.’
‘Right, right, I’ll put on the kettle for a friend/ said the squirrel. ‘Just
you fetch me some birch twigs and I’ll make a fire from them.’
‘Right away, right away, Missie Fuss-Pot/ said the hare, dashing off.
But the squirrel was crafty. She began to regret her promise to share
her supplies, and that was why she had sent the poor hare packing.
‘By the time he finds some birch twigs/ she thought, ‘I’ll have shifted
all my supplies to another hollow and I’ll pretend a marten ate me up.’
But the squirrel had scarcely had time to thread a needle to mend
her sack than the hare was back.
‘Here we are/ he cried all out of breath. ‘Some birch twigs for you,
‘You’re back quickly/ said the squirrel.
‘It isn’t hard to find birch twigs/ said the hare. ‘You can see the silver
branches gleaming from the edge of the woods.’
‘That’s true/ thought the squirrel. ‘I’ll have to be craftier next
‘Now I’ve got plenty of tinder/ she continued. ‘But I’ve nothing to
light it with. If you’d be good enough to fetch me some aspen twigs I
can make matches out of them.’
Right away, right away, Missie Fuss-Pot/ said the hare, dashing off
Meanwhile the squirrel thought to herself,
‘He won’t come across aspen in a hurry at this time of year. After all,
all trees look alike without their leaves, only the silver birch is different
from the rest because of its silver bark.’
But hardly had the squirrel sewn the first patch on her sack than the
hare was back.
‘Here you are, Missie Fuss-Pot, here are your aspen tw T igs.’
‘You’re back quickly/ said the squirrel.
‘It’s not that hard to find the aspen,’ said the hare. ‘Its branches
stand up straight and strong like stakes on fences. Aspens are slender,
straight and greyish-green with bitter bark.’
‘That’s true,’ thought the squirrel. ‘I’ll have to think up something
‘I’ll just put the kettle on,’ she said to the hare. ‘But how am I going
to lay the table when I haven’t a table to lay? Now if you were to fetch
me some good strong oak branches, I could saw up some boards and
make myself a good oak table.’
Right away, right away, Missie Fuss-Pot,’ said the hare, racing off.
Meanwhile, the squirrel was thinking,
‘Well, you won’t find an oak so easily in wintertime.’
But the squirrel had hardly had time to drop ten nuts into her sack
than the hare was back.
‘Here are your oak branches, Missie Fuss-Pot,’ said the hare.
‘You’re back quickly,’ said the squirrel.
‘Oh, it isn’t hard to find the oak,’ said the hare. ‘The oak is big and
strong and rough with dry leaves hanging on its branches in winter,
‘That’s true,’ thought the squirrel. ‘I’ll have to be craftier still.’
‘I can make a table now,’ she said to the hare, ‘but I’ve nothing to
scrub it down with. Now if you were to fetch me some lime
Right away, right away, Missie Fuss-Pot,’ said the hare, dashing off.
Meanwhile the squirrel thought to herself,
‘You won’t find a lime in a hurry in wintertime.’
But the squirrel had scarcely time to tie up her sack of nuts than the
hare was back.
‘Well, here we are,’ he said. ‘Here’s your lime bast, Missie Fuss-Pot.’
‘You’re back quickly,’ she said.
‘Well, it isn’t hard to find the lime tree,’ said the hare. ‘Each of its
branches is bent in the middle, as if a baby bear had sat right in the
middle of them.’
‘That’s true enough,’ thought the squirrel. ‘I really must think of
something craftier than ever this time.’
Well have a real feast soon enough, but what sort of feast will it be
without music?’ she said. ‘Now if you were to fetch me some maple
branches I could make a balalaika out of them.’
Right away, right away, Missie Fuss-Pot,’ said the hare, rushing off.
Meanwhile the squirrel was thinking to herself,
‘He surely won’t find any maple in the depths of winter!’
Yet hardly had she had time to hump the sack of nuts upon her back
than the hare w 7 as back.
‘Well, here are your maple branches, Missie Fuss-Pot/ he cried.
‘You’re back quickly,’ she said.
‘Well, it isn’t that hard to find the maple,’ said the hare. ‘You find its
switches sitting in pairs, just like a man sitting there arms aloft: his
body is the branch, his arms are the switches. Only you’ve had me
scampering all over the place, Missie Fuss-Pot. Still, never mind, I’d be
silly not to put myself out for such a feast. Anyway, my legs are big and
strong, not like yours. When I was bandaging your leg last summer I
was wondering how your poor little legs would bear your weight as you
At that the squirrel remembered how much the hare had looked
after her, how he has fed her through the summer, and she felt
ashamed of herself.
‘Come and sit down for a bit, poor hare,’ said the squirrel quietly and
kindly. ‘I’ll have it ready in a jiffy.’
And it wasn’t long before she had made matches out of the aspen, lit
the birch tinder, heated up the kettle, made an oak table, scrubbed it
down with lime bast and laid it with all manner of goodies. She piled it
high as for a big feast.
And when she and the hare had ate their fill, the squirrel tuned up
her maple balalaika and struck up a tune. And she and the hare had
such a fine time that even the nearby trees regretted they had no feet
to dance along with them.
A BEETLE’S LIVING ROOM
The newborn beetle did so much crawling, flying and pottering about
in celebrating his first day of life that, by evening, he was very tired; he
could not move a leg or whisker.
He lay down in the centre of a big yellow flower. The flower was
more flat than bowl-shaped, covered in lots of narrow petals, as soft as
soft can be. It gave off lovely honey-like smell. And it was still warm, so
strongly had the sun heated it up that day.
The sun had just sunk below the hill And the sky, which was a light
lilac blue as if it had forget-me-nots blossoming in its meadows,
gradually turned red, as if poppies had all come out at sunset.
And now the first little star was twinkling in the sky. The newborn
beetle shook himself; he so wanted to fly, to fly up yonder and circle
round that little winking star.
All of a sudden, he felt the flower beneath him trembling. At that he
clung on tighter to it with his legs.
‘Maybe the flower wants to fly up yonder too?’ thought the newborn
Thereupon he saw yellow walls popping up all round him. They
were becoming taller and taller, and the sky w r as getting narrower and
narrower. Only the little star continued to shine, though it too was
contracting. Suddenly it flickered and went out. And all around became
quite dark, as dark as dark could be.
‘How did this flower suddenly curl itself up like that?’ wondered the
newborn beetle as he dropped off to sleep.
On the second morning of his life, the beetle woke up at the bottom
of a dark sack. He tried to scramble up the soft wall, but all to no avail.
Sadly he sat at the bottom of the closed flower and thought he would
never see the sunshine again.
All of a sudden, he felt the flower trembling. And straightaway the
light poured in. It flooded in through a little crack that had not been
there before; it was getting wider and wider all the time. And the
yellow walls around him quietly moved back. The flower had flat petals
Now the beetle could see the sun riding behind the forest. And when
its rays fell upon the beetle, he felt strong at once and cheered up.
‘I can fly,’ he cried to the sun.
And, spreading his wings, he took off from the edge of the flower
and flew off wherever the fancy took him.
WIND, ANT AND LITTLE BIRD
One day Blower-wind, little Pecker-bird and Hoarder-ant all came
together. They fell to chatting and became such firm friends that they
decided never to part- — they would do one and the same thing and live
in one and the same house.
So off they set to find themselves a job.
On and on they went until they came to garden. Seeing them
approaching, the gardener asked,
‘Where are you bound for, lads?*
Blower-wind answered for all of them.
‘We’re off to seek some work.’
> ■- ■
‘Come and join me,’ said the gardener. ‘I’ve plenty of work: turning
the rattle, scaring the moles and protecting the vegetables/
‘That’s just the work for me,’ said the wind.
At that all three entered the garden and saw a pole sticking out of
the ground: and on top of the pole was a windmill-rattle.
How the wind blew! The windmill turned round and round, the
rattle rattled, the pole rocked, and the moles underground scampered
away from the garden.
‘Thanks a lot,’ said the gardener. ‘Stay and work with me.’
‘All three of us have decided to do one and the same thing and live
in one and the same house. So let my companions now have a go at
The little Pecker-bird perched on the rattle and pecked at it but it
did not move at all.
‘You aren’t much of a workman,’ said the gardener.
And Hoarder-ant piped up,
'There’s no sense in trying: if my sister can’t manage it I certainly
So that was that, the friends parted with the gardener and went on
On and on they went until they came to an orchard. There they saw a
gardener who called to them,
‘Where are you bound for, lads?’
We’re off to find some work,’ the bird answered for all of them.
Come and join me,’ said the gardener. ‘I’ve plenty of work: there
are the pesky beetles and caterpillars to keep down and the fruit trees
‘That’s right up my street,’ said the little Pecker-bird.
So the three entered the garden and saw plenty of beetles and
caterpillars sitting in the trees and gnawing holes in the leaves.
You should have seen Pecker-bird deal with them! He swooped on
oiic bectk- after another, pecked up one caterpillar after another.
Thanks a lot,’ said the gardener. ‘Stay here and work for me.’
Little Pecker-bird answered,
All three of us have decided to do one and the same job and live in
one and the same house. So let my companions try to deal with the
Blower-wind rushed at a beetle, but he knocked all the apples to the
You aren t much of a workman,’ said the gardener.
And Hoarder-ant piped up,
There s no sense in me trying: if my brother can’t manage it, I won’t
. be any good.’
There was nothing for it but for the friends to say goodbye to the
gardener and go on their way.
On and on they went until they came to the edge of the woods. And
there they saw an old lady coming towards them.
‘Where are you, lads, bound for?’ she asked.
Hoarder-ant answered for all of them,
‘We’re off in search of work.’
‘Then come to me,’ said the old lady. ‘Come and see what you can do
for my sore legs.’
‘That’s just the work for me,’ said Hoarder- ant. ‘I’m a good
Crawling on to the old lady’s leg, he squirted some ant acid under
her skin. ..
‘Thanks a lot,’ said the old lady. ‘Why don’t you stay with me and
heal the sick?’
But the ant replied,
‘All three of us have decided to do one and the same job and live in
one and the same house. So let my companions have a go at healing
But Blower-wind and little Pecker-bird said,
‘There’s no sense in us trying: we don’t have any medicines, we’ve
nothing to heal people with.’
There was nothing for it but to say goodbye to the old lady and go
on their way.
On and on they went until they came to a thick green forest.
‘Where are you bound for, lads?’ murmured the forest.
Blower-wind, little Pecker-bird and Hoarder-ant all answered in one
‘We’re going in search of work.’
‘Remain here with me,’ said the forest. ‘I have plenty of work here
picking up seeds, otherwise they will all grow up alongside the mother
plants, giving no one any space.’
The wind glanced up and saw lots of winged seeds hanging from the
trees under their broad leaves.
‘That’s the work for me,’ said the wind. ‘I can break wings off the
trees, whirl them in the air and carry them off.’
The little bird peered into the dense forest and saw shrubs growing
under the trees, with berries on them.
‘That’s the work for me,’ said the little bird.
And she began to peck at the berries, so that their seeds fell upon
the ground some way from the shrubs.
Meanwhile the ant looked at the grass and saw all sorts of seeds
amidst the blades of grass, with white feelers already sprouting from
‘That’s just the work for me,’ said the ant.
With that it crawled after the seeds amongst the grass. It bit off the
white sprouts and ate them, scattering the seeds all over the ground.
And so the companions remained in the forest. They all do one and
the same job of spreading the seeds. They all live in one and the same
house: Blower-wind lives amidst the branches of the trees, on the
second floor; little Pecker-bird lives in the shrubs, on the first floor;
and Hoarder-ant lives upon the ground floor.
A spring breeze was blowing, and all the grasses in the garden were so
happy they could have a good chat. They were only able to chat when
the breeze swayed them to and fro.
‘Look, look/ rustled the grass, ‘who’s that growing over there, rig
on the path?’ , . . ^
And all the blades of grass swayed over as low as they could to get a
be And over there, in the middle of the path, a low, thick Fennel Weed
was growing, with little leaves like tiny threads.
‘Silly little fool,’ hissed the blades of grass. ‘What did you have to
grow there for?’
‘Because X like it here,’ she said.
‘But you won’t like it. Oh no you, won’t, when people tread on you,
^Fennel Weed took offence at their taunts and stopped talking to them.
She was still and fragrant. Still and fragrant. She was so very sweet-
Uncle Burdock felt sorry for her.
‘Don’t worry/ he said. ‘If they do tread you down, you can grow
again. My Granddad was always doing that. He lived by a booth where
ginger beer was sold. You ought to have seen the number of feet that
trod on him.’
‘Not everyone can grow again,’ said the Poppy.
It looked at Fennel Weed and shook its head.
It had become very warm outside and all the weeds had burst into
bloom. Blooming as best they could. And they began to boast of their
‘My flowers are like the sunshine/ said Uncle Dandelion. ‘Children
smile when they look at them.’
‘Mine too are like the sunshine/ said the Poppy. The sun is only as
red as my poppies of an evening. That’s because it’s cross at having to
go to bed so early.’
But Uncle Burdock sighed. His flowers were like brushes that soap
the face before a shave.
All the weeds showed off their flowers to one another. And then
they all recalled the low-lying, thick little Fennel Weed.
‘Come on, show us your flowers/ they murmured to her.
Her flowers all had little green spikes which she showed off to them.
‘Take a look at these/ she cried.
‘Look, look, see what funny flowers she’s got. What peculiar little
Fennel Weed took offence at their taunts, and stopped talking to
them. She was still and fragrant. Still and fragrant. Uncle Burdock and
Uncle Dandelion tried to comfort her,
‘Don’t worry. At least no one will try to pick your flowers.’
‘And your head won’t be turned in the slightest when they blossom/
said the Poppy.
Some holidaymakers were arriving at their country cottage: Mrs
Holidaymaker, Mr Holidaymaker, Master Holidaymaker and a
‘Oh just see how many feet are coming/ whispered the blades of
And the holidaymakers marched straight down the centre of the
path where Fennel Weed was growing. The little dog stepped on her
with its furry paw; so did Master Holidaymaker in his sandals, Mrs
Holidaymaker in her high heels, and Mr Holidaymaker in his great
And when they had passed by. Fennel Weed was lying flat on the
‘They’ve trampled her down, crushed her/ murmured the weeds.
‘Farewell now, Fennel Weed.’
And suddenly there came a voice,
‘No, not “Farewell”! It doesn’t hurt a bit.’
And in a jiffy she had sprung up as if nothing had happened.
And her little leaves — the green threads — remained unharmed.
Even the little flowers — tiny spikey burrs — popped up straight.
‘Now there are leaves for you!’ said Uncle Burdock.
‘Now" there are flowers for you!’ said Uncle Dandelion.
‘It’s hard to believe/ said the Poppy.
All the weeds were very glad that Fennel Weed was safe and sound.
And nobody teased her that day at all.
Uncle Dandelion’s flowers turned into puffy little balls and, when the
breeze began to blow, the weeds all murmured.
‘Look, see Uncle Dandelion’s children flying around.’
Some flew right across the grass and over the fence, even as far as
The breeze ruffled Poppy’s head and out popped the tiny babies of
the Poppy, sprinkling the earth all about.
‘What a good thing the breeze is blowing,’ murmured the weeds. ‘We
were so looking forward to it.’
Only Uncle Burdock had not looked forward to the breeze; he was
looking forward to the puppy. And as it ran past, he stuck a sticky little
basket to its tail, with his little children sitting inside it.
The puppy raced off past the gate and. began to chase its tail; it fixed
its teeth on the sticky basket and tore if off, so tipping Uncle Burdock’s
children all over the place.
Meanwhile Unde Burdock looked on smiling. All through the day
the seeds flew and sprinkled about. The weeds had been very busy. It
was evening before they could rest in the cool of a summer drizzle. It
was then they remembered they had not yet seen Fennel Weed’s
She was glad they had forgotten her. For her children were very
simple, though after the rain they seemed to become sticky. Sticky and
tacky as if someone had dipped them into a droplet of honey. Fennel
Weed was frightened no one would like them. And she was right.
‘What funny children,’ whispered the weeds. ‘What peculiar babies!
They stick so hard to their mother; you can’t unstick them from
yourself, can you? There’s children for you! What on earth are you
going to do with them?’
Down came the rain again. And when it had passed young boy ran
out of the cottage, skipping down the path towards the gate. Fennel
Weed was pressed to the ground under his sandal. Then he rushed
down another path, through an orchard. After that he ran into the
front garden, picking up worms as he went upon all the paths.
A breeze blew up scattering the last rain clouds. The weeds
brightened up and began to gossip again. All of a sudden, they noticed
that Fennel Weed was quite bare. It had gone bald like Uncle
Dandelion. There was not a single seed left on it.
‘Where on earth are your sticky little babies, where have they got to?’
whispered the weeds.
But the bald Fennel Weed smiled and remained silent.
‘Is it true the rain washed them away? Did it wash them under your
roots? If it did, you’ll all have a tight squeeze growing in the spring!’
‘No,’ replied Fennel Weed, ‘it won’t be a tight squeeze at all.
Everything’s just fine and dandy. And I’m mighty pleased that I grew
up in the middle of the path.’
The weeds were very surprised and understood nothing.
But Uncle Burdock and Uncle Dandelion asked Fennel Weed the
secret of her children’s whereabouts.
And she told them.
Everyone learned her secret in spring, for little Fennel Weeds were
growing along all the pathways, just by the gate, all along the path
through the orchard, and down all the path-ways in the front garden,
all over the place. Wherever that little boy had run last summer after
the rain, the little Fennel Weeds were now growing.
THE UNWELCOME GUEST
An ant and a bee were drinking water from the same pool; at once
they introduced themselves and became good friends. And so they
should, for both worked hard their whole lives through and both were
very fond of sweet things.
When it came to sweets the bee was much better off, for she could fly
and find flowers containing sweet fragrant nectar. But the ant had to
run along the ground, and flowers always blossomed high up, too high
for it to reach them.
The bee felt sorry for the ant and told it,
‘I’ll treat you, little, ant, I’ll go and visit some white flowers, dead
stinging nettles, and you run after me as fast as you can. I’ll wait for
you to catch up and give you a shout; then climb up the stalk and eat
Thus it was. The bee gaily flew off while the ant raced over the
ground for all it was worth.
And it came to a frightening place: everywhere it looked it saw long
sharp needles sticking out. They were thick needles, as thick as an ant’s
leg. And they were fixed to thick green trunks.
The ant halted. It really was an eerie place. And then, all of a
sudden, the ant heard the bee’s voice above.
‘Shin up this stalk quickly the bee called. ‘This is the dead nettle I
was telling you about. It invites you ,co come and help yourself.’
‘But how am I going to climb up /replied the ant, ‘with all these
needles around? Even a tiny insect couldn’t find a way through them,
let alone me, an ant.’
Tm sorry, little ant,’ said the bee. ‘I realised the nettle had such
needles, I knew but didn’t guess they would cause such problems. Don’t
despair. I’ll just fly to the fireweed’s red flowers, and you run after me
as fast as you can. I’ll wait for you and give you a shout. The fireweed
has a smooth stalk, so you’ll be able to race up it and eat your fill.’
And so it was. The bee flew blithely off and the ant raced after it as
fast as its legs would carry it. Over stones and weeds it climbed, under
parched bits of grass it crawled, through fine sand it slid downhill and
around pools of water it ran.
Finally it came to a thick forest. All around stood green smooth
trunks and up above were splendid flowers waving their heads beneath
a blue canopy. The ant stood still admiring them when, suddenly, it
heard the bee calling above it,
‘Climb up this stalk as fast as you can. The fireweed invites you to
come on up and sample its nectar.’
So up went the ant. Quickly it shinned up the smooth stalk and then,
all at once, saw something in front blocking its path — a black clinging
swamp with drowned midges floating on it. Their legs were tangled up,
their little wings stuck to the black slime, their whiskers drooping.
What a fright the ant got; and how sorry it felt for the poor midges.
What was it to do now? Was there no way through this terrible swamp?
Wasn’t there even a pathway?
The ant ran right round the stem. No, the swamp ringed the stalk
Above the ant the bee was hurrying it up,
‘Make it snappy, will you. This nectar is so lovely and sweet.’
‘Perhaps I should have a go?’ thought the ant. ‘After all, I’m not a
midge, I’m an ant.’
And it slipped its front legs into the swamp. In they went and stuck
fast. It tried to pull them back but the swamp would not let them go.
Oh dear, how scared the ant was. In a strange voice it called out,
‘I’m stuck Save me.’
‘Hold on, called back the bee. ‘Take the strain and tug your legs as
hard as you can. Don’t despair, you’ll get out.’
The ant took the strain. It strained might and mane and finally
pulled its legs free of the swamp.
‘Please forgive me, ant, 5 said the bee. ‘I did realise there was a
clinging marsh around the fireweed’s stem. I realised that but didn’t
dream we’d have such trouble. Never worry. I’ll just take a look at the
toad flax’s yellow flowers while you run behind me as best you can. I’ll
hold on for you and give you a shout. The toad flax has a smooth stalk
with no pitfalls at all. You only have to climb up swiftly and eat your
So it was. I he bee flew happily off and the ant came running for all
it was worth.
And it finally arrived at a sunny hill. On the hillside stood
greyish-green trunks with long greyish -green leaves upon them. Up
above were yellow flowers to which the bee was flying. When it caught
sight of the ant it cried,
‘Come on up the stem as quickly as you can. The toad flax’s flowers
invite you to the feast.’
The ant swiftly ran up to the yellow flowers and sat down on a leaf
next to the bee for a rest. Gazing at the toad flax flowers, it said in
‘Now, there are flowers for you. They have yellow ears pointing
upwards, a muzzle in front with a pouting orange lip, and a yellow tail
hanging down. How will I dare approach such a monster? 5
‘I’ll teach you, 5 said the bee.
Climbing onto the orange lip, it touched the centre of the flower
with its head, and it opened up; then the bee crawled through the
ctac.k. The flow 7 er had sw'allowed the bee! Only the end of its trousers
and back legs were poking out of the flower’s jaw's.
The poor ant was scared out of its wits, not knowing whether the
monster w r ould let the bee go. But the bee did manage to squeeze its
way out again, though with some trouble.
‘Now 7 it’s your turn to climb in, 5 said the bee.
The ant crawled onto the orange lip, knocked and knocked on the'
flower with its head, but without any effect: the flower did not bat an
eyelid. The poor ant was close to tears. It w r as so hungry and so close to
food, yet Oh so far!
I m sorry, little ant,’ said the bee, ‘I did know that the toad flax’s
flowers are always shut, I knew that but did not realise we would have
so much trouble getting in.’
‘I’m not a bit angry with you,’ said the ant. ‘Only, to my mind, it’s not
as easy as you say. Those needles were stuck there on purpose against
me; that swamp was put purposely on the stem; and that muzzle-like
flower was shut on purpose. The flowers aren’t keen on me having a
tiny drop of their nectar.’ &
‘Yes, you’re probably right,’ said the bee.
‘Only why is it they don’t begrudge you any of their nectar?’ asked
‘Perhaps because I work for them,’ said the bee. ‘You see, I’m all
covered in flower pollen. I carry it on my fur-coat from flower to
flower. The flowers need that to give them seeds. That is why the
flowers like me, invite me to visit them and feed me. But I never
realised they would be so unfriendly to you.’
‘Never mind,’ said the ant. ‘I don’t fly, I don’t wear a fur coat, I can’t
carry pollen, so it serves me right,' doesn’t it? I’m better off running
around the places I know best.’
At that the friends parted. The bee flew off to its hive, while the ant
ran home to its ant-hill.
All turned out well for the little ant in the end, for just by his house
he ran into one of his brothers carting home a huge piece of sugar. He
confessed he had dragged it all the way from a cottage table.
The ant munched the sugar to its heart’s content, and then gave its
brother a hand dragging the rest of it to the ant-hill.
UNDER THE BUSH
The old bush was not fond of things growing under it, even the tiniest
blade of grass.
And right from spring, as soon as buds began to fatten on its bare
twigs, the bush would cast its gaze down. It would take a look to see if
some cheeky bits of grass were growing underneath it.
And it was very cross when it saw the bright yellow flower of
goosefoot grass under its lowest branch.
‘What were you thinking of to choose this spot?’ it would shout at the
‘But I never gave it a thought/ the flower would say.
And true enough, it really had not given it a thought. It was simply
happy to be alive. It rejoiced in the warmth and the sun, the sky and
the happy midges who settled on its flowers. It was happy as it
unfolded one little star flower after another.
Soon the bush’s buds gave way to leaves and the bush, glancing
down, shouted out,
‘Just you wait and see what my shade will do, you silly goosefoot
But the goosefoot grass was not afraid and continued to enjoy all the
fine things around it. The sunshine would light up first one, then
another of its narrow leaves. Its first little flowers were already in bloom
seeds growing in their little green boxes.
Leaves began to unfold on the bush. And a dark shadow fell over the
ground below T the bush. No longer was the sky visible. The yellow
flowers of the goosefoot grass had already faded, while the seeds were
beginning to ripen.
‘How do you like my shade, goosefoot grass?’ the bush cried. ‘Are
you having a good time of it?
‘I’m a trifle tired,’ said the goosefoot grass, ‘and could do with a nap.’
‘Nonsense,’ said the bush. ‘You’re growing weak and soon will die.
My shade has killed all the weeds that grew down there.’
The leaves on the bush straightened out and grew thicker. And with
every passing day the shadow under the bush became blacker and
‘Are you still alive, goosefoot grass?’ called the bush.
But there was no reply.
‘Dead at last,’ said the bush. ‘Fine thing too. There’s no respite for
any grass from my shade.’
And not a single green blade of grass grew under the old bush right
up to autumn. When autumn arrived the leaves began to fall. The
bush’s branches became bare once more, and the enormous sky and
sun could be seen again through them. Only there was no one to see
and enjoy the sight.
Autumn and winter passed. And again spring arrived. The old bush
had not yet woken up, yet underneath it a strong green shoot pierced
the leafy ground carpet. It broke through and unfolded its leaves,
pushing up a little stalk and opening up a yellow star flower.
‘Goosefoot grass!’ exclaimed the bush. ‘So you didn’t die, after all?’
‘No, I didn’t die,’ said the little flower.
And so it was: it did not die. It had simply remained a little bulb all
that time. And as a little bulb it had slept underground. It had slept
throughout summer, autumn and winter so that it could become a
happy flower once again in springtime.
THE CRAFTY DANDELION
The crafty dandelion grew up together with the other dandelions
amidst the red clover and ears of corn at the path side. He made
friends with the ears of corn and was always whispering something in
their ears when they bent towards him. But the crafty dandelion was
not so keen on gossiping with his fellow dandelions. All the same, the
dandelion family lived happily enough until the time came to say
goodbye to all their seed-babies.
The babies lived right on the heads of the dandelions, which was
very convenient and splendid to see: all the children would be sitting
calmly and tidily together on high, waving their fluffy heads.
Each seed-baby had its own ball of fluff like an unfurled umbrella, so
as to stay in the air and fly in the wind.
So it was that the children grew up and had to find their own way in
the world. It was then that the dandelion parents began to quarrel over
which of them could launch their children first into the air, who could
fly off fastest, so that there were no balls of fluff left on their heads.
Only the crafty dandelion had no dispute with anyone. He was too
busy gossiping with the ears of corn, and keeping quiet with his
brothers. But the other dandelions did not calm down until they
spotted a lad running towards them. Thereupon they all stopped their
niggling in a flash and implored the boy:
‘Blow on me.’
‘No, on me, on me.’
‘Me, me, me.’
Only the crafty dandelion kept his peace.
As soon as the lad set eyes on the fluffy big heads he muttered in
‘I shan’t blow on you today, so there!’
Saying that he ran off without giving anyone a blow.
The dandelions shrank back. Then all of a sudden, they saw a
dog running towards them along the path. At once they began
to implore it,
‘Wag your tail, wag your tail, knock the fluff off me!’
‘No, me, me, me.’
Only the crafty old dandelion kept quiet. The dog glanced at the
balls of fluff and said in a cross voice,
‘I shan’t wag my tail, so there! My master came home today and I’ve
been wagging my tail all morning, so it’s tired out now and drooping.’
So saying it ran off without bumping into a single ball of fluff. It was
enough to make even a dandelion cry. Yet just then a breeze sprang
up. It blew hard, rocking their tall stalks, knocking off their fluffy
heads of seeds, snatching them up and bearing them away behind the
When the breeze had died down, the dandelions glanced around.
Well, who had got rid of most children? All of them now had bald
patches. Some lucky ones had lost half their fluff. But the one who was
completely bald, right down to the last particle of fluff, was just one
dandelion — the crafty dandelion who had made friends with the ears
of corn. At that all of them turned to him, crying,
‘Tell us how you did it.’
But the crafty dandelion burst out laughing, telling them,
‘It’s now time for me to tell you all my secret. I had a pact with my
friends the ears of corn, that the moment the wind blew each of them
would give me a switch on my crown. So now you see?’
Yes, all of them could see all that remained on the stalks of the crafty
dandelion was nothing more than a white button.
Our boots were standing on the windowsill when our pussy hopped up
and began to sniff at them.
‘Puss, puss, puss. Don’t you sniff our boots,’ we cried.
Pussy took fright. She turned round to jump down but, in so doing,
knocked the boots right out of the window.
So now the boots were lying in the garden, complaining,
‘Where are our feet? Who is going to put us on now?’
Just then a goose came up to the boots.
‘Ho, ho, ho,’ it said. ‘My feet will put you on.’
‘No thank you,’ they said. ‘Your feet are red with web rags between
your toes. We shan’t go on you.’
‘Ho, ho, ho,’ said the goose. ‘Oh, yes you will.’
‘Scatter, scatter, goose,’ we shouted. ‘Get away from our boots.
At that the goose fled.
So the boots were lying in the yard, complaining,
Where are our feet? Who is going to put us on?’
Just then a cock came up to the boots.
‘Ko, ko, ko,’ it said. ‘My feet will put you on.’
No, thank you, they said. Your feet are like sticks, and you’ve got
sharp claws on your toes. No, we won’t go on you.’
‘Ko, ko, ko,’ said the cock. ‘Oh, yes you will.’
‘Buzz off, buzz off, cock,’ we shouted. ‘Don’t put our boots on. Buzz
off, buzz off.’
At that the cock ran away.
So the boots were still lying in the yard, complaining.
‘Where are our feet? Who is going to put us on?’
Just then a dog came up to the boots.
Woof, woof, woof, barked the dog. ‘My feet will put you on.’
‘No, thank you,’ said the boots. ‘Your feet are hairy, full of fur, we
can’t even see your toes.’
‘Doggie, doggie,’ we shouted. ‘Fetch the boots and bring them here.
Our little girl is here waiting for her boots.’
The dog did as he was told and picked up the boots in his teeth.
‘Come on, come on, lad,’ we called. ‘Bring them here.’
So the dog brought our boots home. And where do you think those
boots are now? Whose feet are wearing them?
THE WILD STRAWBERRY
The sun was shining. A wild strawberry was ripening in the glade
when, suddenly, a mosquito noticed her and piped up,
‘The berry is ripe: red and juicy.’
A bird heard the mosquito and came flying down to the glade. He
wanted to eat the strawberry.
A little mouse heard the mosquito and came scampering to the glade.
He too wanted to eat the strawberry.
A frog heard the mosquito, came hopping into the glade. He too
wanted to eat the strawberry.
A snake heard the mosquito and came slithering into the glade. He
too wanted to eat the strawberry.
A rain cloud rushed across the sun, blocking it out. When the
mosquito saw it, he piped up,
‘The rain’s coming, wet and cold.’
When the bird heard the mosquito,
When the mouse heard the mosquito
When the frog heard the mosquito,
he quickly flew up to a tree,
he dived quickly into his hole,
he quickly hid under a leaf.
When the snake heard the mosquito, he quickly crawled under a
Meanwhile the strawberry bathed happily in the rain, pleased that no
one had touched her.
THE TRUCK RIDE
Mouse, Hare and Dog took their places in the truck and off they went.
On and on they drove until they hit a rock.
Bang! The truck veered over and they all flew up in the air.
They sat on the ground and cried. But they had to go on somehow.
At that Mouse said,
‘I ! ll lift the truck back on the road.’
It huffed and puffed, but could not lift it.
‘Let me have a go. I’m stronger than you . 5
So it tried too, but could not lift it.
Thereupon Dog said,
‘Come on, lads, let’s try together . 5
So they all put their backs into it and, with a whoosh and a swish, up
w T ent the truck.
Climbing back onto the truck, they w 7 ent to drive off with Mouse at
the wheel, but it w r ould not move: the rock had stuck under the rear
Up spoke Mouse, saying,
Til shove the rock aside . 5
It began to heave and strain, but could not shift it.
‘Let me have a go. I’m stronger than you.’
So it pushed and shoved, but could not shift it.
And Dog said,
‘Come on, lads, let’s do it together.’
So they all pushed and, with a whoosh and a swish, the}' moved aside
Climbing onto the truck, off they drove. .
On and on and on they went without an accident. What a lovely
THE FROG AT THE WELL
The toy frog wanted to build himself a well. Brick by brick, brick by
brick, brick by brick. And there was his well.
Hopping onto the well, he peered down. Was there any water? Yes,
there was. So off he went to fetch a pail. Then he sat in wait for a
customer to drink his water.
First came a billy goat, saying,
‘Give me a drink of your water, Mr Frog.’
Frog let down his pail and brought up a pailful of water. He gave
the billy goat a drink.
‘Thanks,’ said the goat.
And off he scampered home: top, top, top.
Next came a little bird, saying,
‘Let me have a drink of your water, Mr Frog.’
Frog let down his pail and brought up a pailful of water. He gave
the little bird a drink.
‘Thanks,’ said the bird.
And off he fluttered home: shoo-oo-oo.
Then along came a little pig, saying,
‘Hey there, Froggie, give me some water. I’m thirsty.’
‘No, I won’t,’ croaked Frog. ‘I don’t like being called Froggie.*
‘If you don’t, I’ll eat you up.’
‘Oh no, you won’t,’ said Frog.
And he dived into the safety of the well.
So the pig could not catch him and had to go home with nothing.
The Live Bead 5
The Happiness Bulb 1 1
The Pumpkinlings 17
Little Cuckoo 19
Little Mouse Loses His Way 33
The Great Wonder 37
Yellow, White and Lilac 45
Winter Revels 50
A Beetle’s Living Room 55
Wind, Ant and Little Bird 58
Fennel Weed 64
The Unwelcome Guest 71
Under the Bush 78
The Crafty Dandelion 82
Whose Boots? 85
The Wild Strawberry 88
The Truck Ride 91
The Frog at the Well 94
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